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Australian art

Contemporary art

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Black square



Justin Trendall


1957 -


Justin Trendall’s unique state prints on fabric trace a skein of references and interweaving of influences with all the passion and unexpected juxtapositions of a fan creating a mix tape. In ‘Black square’ the highest names of his pantheon are Giotto and Tracey Emin – one more expected and anointed by art history than the other. We can not be sure if Trendall is being ironic or not in elevating Ms Emin to a similar status to one of the great masters of the past. Artists, curators, gallerists, architects and musicians are all connected through their importance to the artist within the spidery lines that forms structures and text boxes over the monochrome ground.

Trendall’s interest in architecture and Piransesi’s 18th century prints of Rome lead him to the whimsical structures that stack up in these works. While there is no direct visual connection with Piranesi, Trendall was inspired by his use of line and form in works such Piransesi’s views of the Coliseum and by the invented space in some of his more fantastical prints. Printed on fabric, there is something solemn and even ceremonial about Trendall’s works – as if they could have a function in a church or an official event – and there is a sense of commemoration in recording and inscribing names in an art work.

The delicacy of these printed lines belies the robust dialogue that can happen in the contemporary art world, their fragility seeming at odds with the competitive cut and thrust of building a career as an artist in Sydney. And yet the names are anchor points or nodes in Trendall’s life: people he knows, has studied, admires, works with or just sees around. These are the people that give his life as an artist meaning. Trendall works in an academic environment where correct art histories are taught but there is something delightful and very human in the unexpected misspellings and bumping up of people from different centuries, places and disciplines and as a cartography of one person’s cultural life it makes perfect sense.




Media category


Materials used

unique screenprint on fabric


230 x 239.2 x 4.4 cm stretcher


Henry Salkauskas Art (Purchase) Award 2009


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Justin Trendall

Works in the collection


Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history

  • Dynamo hum, Sarah Cottier Gallery, Paddington, 26 Jun 2009–25 Jul 2009

  • Exploded Textiles, Tamworth Regional Gallery, Tamworth, 28 Sep 2019–01 Dec 2019